BEAT THE CROWDS IN SANTORINI
There are some destinations that are crowded for a reason.
The blue and white villages clinging to the caldera of Santorini attract people from all around the world. During the high season (June-September), travellers arrive en masse via planes, ferries, and cruise ships.
I am not one for crowds, though brushing sweaty shoulders with other tourists is just par for the course in Santorini. It's hard to walk through the winding cobblestone streets because the crowds are so dense sometimes. I'll preface this post by saying that the romance, stunning beauty, and ethereal vibe that Santorini offers makes fighting the masses worth it. However, lining up for a sunset photo is a little much for me. After our first half-day, we were craving some space and just knew that there had to be some lesser-known spots to explore. So, here's what we did to have a day (almost) to ourselves on Santorini. It's all about doing a little planning so that your timing is off from everyone else's!
Keep in mind that our home base was Fira, so adjust your plans accordingly!
9AM GREEK COFFEE AND SPANAKOPITA
Svornos Bakery is where it's at. Bring your small change and you'll walk away satisfied and ready to take on the day.
10AM EXPLORE THE VILLAGES OF FIRA, FIROSTEFANI, AND IMEROVIGLIA
Take your time walking up, down, and side to side. Stop and check out the shops and views without the pressure of backing up the entire street. Breathe. Wondering where everyone else is? They've just rolled out of bed and they're being served breakfast on their balconies. It's too hot to be roaming the streets, but you're committed to capturing that photo of you and no one else, so you're going to do what you have to do. Aren't you?
1PM LATE LUNCH
We wanted to soak up every second of our crowd-free day, so we opted for a quick, delicious, and cheap lunch at Lucky's Souvlaki in the main square of Fira. Going at an off-peak time will allow you the best seat in the house and 20 minutes of people watching, rehydration, and nourishment. Best falafel I've had since Oman.
2PM BUS FROM FIRA TO EMPORIO
You'll need to take the bus towards Perissa (bus 46) and hop off in Emporio - just ask the bus attendant to stop there for you. Bus schedule here.
Emporio town captured my heart. Though we didn't visit all 15 villages in Santorini, this was the only one we saw that had absolutely no tourist infrastructure. There were no souvenir shops or tavernas marketed to visitors. It almost didn't feel like Santorini, as the village homes were all painted a lovely beige, giving the whole place an otherworldly feeling. Each domed house is cared for with pride. You'll see cactus gardens, potted succulents, perfectly primped gates and best of all, colourful doors. It's easy to get lost in this gorgeous town without seeing a single other tourist. Make sure to stumble into one of the tiny wine cellars for some local vino to break up your day.
4PM BUS TO PERISSA (BLACK BEACH)
Head back to the Emporio bus station and wait for the 46 bus which will continue straight to Perissa. If your timing is off and you don't want to wait, grab another glass of wine from the pub beside the bus station!
Perissa is a stunning beach of fine (and searingly hot) black sand which draws huge crowds of sun bathers and swimmers during the day. When you arrive in Perissa, everyone else will be starting to pack up their beach bags to head back to Fira or Oia and stand in line for a picture of the sunset. As the mass exodus occurs, you can enjoy your pick of the best sun beds. Don't pay more than 10 Euros for two sun beds under an umbrella. Each group of sun beds belongs to a different bar across the beach road and waiters will bring you beverages and/or food from said establishment.
8PM DINNER IN PERISSA
Despite the variety and quality on offer, Perissa is not a wildly popular dinner spot. Most visitors choose to stay on the other side of the island where there are caldera views and blue-topped villages. This can work to your advantage, of course, if you're avoiding crowds. However, since we always try to choose the busiest restaurants, this clouded our judgement. TripAdvisor tipped us onto a place called Ntomatini, a Greek meze place (kind of like tapas in Spain). Share a bunch of traditional local dishes with your love or your friends, and you're in for a perfect night.
10PM BACK TO FIRA
...feeling accomplished, satisfied, and hopefully more in love with Santorini than ever before. If you're in the mood for more, find a bar with a caldera view. The village will be glowing against the pitch black sky. All the best sunset watchers will be long gone, leaving behind all the best seats in the house for you.